Bradley McKee’s Backcountry Skylane

By Dan Brownell

Photos of Bradley McKee’s 1957 Cessna 182 by Jack Fleetwood (

Bradley McKee is an enthusiastic young aviator with an ambition to become a corporate pilot. His passion for flying began almost as far back as he can remem­ber, around 5 years old. His grandfather had an interest in aviation from his service in the Army and later from flying frequently on commercial flights for work. Brad has vivid memories of going to air shows with his grandfather and going to airports to watch planes take off and land. He knew from childhood that he wanted to fly as a career, but it wasn’t until 2016 that he finally had the opportunity to take his first flight as a passenger in a GA plane.

Like many earning their wings, he got his initiation in the iconic Skyhawk. “I learned to fly in a straight-tail 172 in Tay­lor, Texas,” he said. “My first instructor, Bruce Lynn, was 89 years old and had been flying since he joined the Army Air Corps during World War II. Later, I would continue my IFR and multiengine training with Al Sidaras, who continues to mentor me as I work toward a career in aviation.”

Moving Up the Ownership Ladder

After earning his private in 2019, Brad’s next step was to become an owner. “My first airplane was a partnership in a Cessna 150 that I formed with four other pilots. The plane was fun to fly and economical, but I wanted something big­ger to take my wife and dog along. So, I sold my share of the 150 and bought a one-fifth share of a 1975 172M model, which was featured in Cessna Owner magazine in July 2021. This partnership was great, since it was already established and had a great group of owner/pilots. The plane is based in my hometown of Taylor and stored in a hangar, which keeps it out of the harsh Texas weather.”

Following a typical progression that comes with accumu­lating flight hours and experience, Brad eventually learned what would best meet his needs for the long-term. “Even though I loved the 172, my mission changed. I have family who live near a short grass strip in Granite Shoals, Texas, and I wanted more power to get out of there on a hot day.”

Brad began looking for a plane that would be better suited for his new favorite destination. “I found this 182 nearby in Pearland, Texas, and when I went to look at it, I had to have it. I loved its rugged look and loved it even more when I heard the beautiful loping sound of the O-470.”

The purchase transaction went smoothly with no major in­spection issues to snarl the sale. “The early 182s, from 1956 to 1959, were built tough,” Brad said. But time does take a toll and sometimes ADs are released to deal with issues that crop up after decades of wear and tear. One of them impacted his plane. “The recent AD on the tail requires removal of tail for inspection. This takes some time and the right mechanic, so I was happy to hear this had already been completed before I bought it.” Given Brad’s plan to make the grass strip a primary des­tination, he wasn’t as concerned with the plane’s aesthetics as he was with its performance and its ability to endure an unpaved runway. “The paint is a little rough, but that’s per­fect for flying into rugged fields. Eventually, I plan to have it painted with a period-correct scheme, but for now I just enjoy flying it.”

Equipped for Adventure

N6337B came well-suited for Brad’s growing family. “The plane already had jump seats in the rear, which is perfect for taking my dog, Shiner, with us. I fold up the seats and he has his own area to himself … well, at least he did. My wife Mea­gan and I recently had a baby girl, Blake, so one of the seats will soon be occupied.”

The fact that the plane is easy to handle in a backcoun­try environment and can carry whatever the family needs for their trips just added to its charm, Brad explained. “The straight-tail 182s are some of the easiest planes to fly. You can get in and out of a tight strip, go fairly fast at cruise, and carry just about anything that will fit. Other than constant-speed propeller and 230 hp, it’s as simple as flying a 172. It’s very stable and the large rudder makes crosswinds a nonevent.”

The McKees use their plane in a number of ways besides backcountry trips. “I use this plane to go for $100 hamburg­ers, to go to fly-ins, and Meagan and I went to Oshkosh for the first time in it last year. In Texas, we have a few fly-ins where you can camp under your wing, and I can’t wait to take the whole family on these adventures.”

Brad McKee with his wife, Meagan; their baby daughter, Blake; and dog Shiner.

Future Panel Plans

Brad is content with the plane pretty much as is, as it meets his current needs. He has thought a little about possible fu­ture improvements, but they’re fairly limited and a ways off. “I haven’t changed anything since I bought the plane. I plan to upgrade the panel to make it more functional, but I want to keep the original ’50s style.”

1957 Cessna 182A Specs

EngineContinental O-470-L
Top Speed157 mph (136 kts)
Cruise Speed (economy)146 mph (127 kts)
Fuel Capacity65 gal
Range685 miles (@ Economy Cruise)
Gross Weight2,650 lbs
Empty Weight1,621 lbs
Avg. Useful Load1,029 lbs
Takeoff Ground Roll555 feet
Takeoff Over 50 ft Obstacle1,080 feet
Landing Ground Roll560 feet
Landing Over 50 ft Obstacle1,310 feet
Rate of Climb1,030 fpm
Service Ceiling20,000 feet
Dimensions (approx.)
Cabin Width (at shoulder)40 inches
Length25 feet, 1-3/4 inches
Height8 feet, 7 inches
Wingspan36 feet
These are the specs for a 1957 Cessna 182A. Every vintage airplane is now different; do not use these specs to plan a flight. All data taken from the Standard Catalog of Cessna Single-Engine Aircraft (JP Media LLC).

An Interesting Backstory

“Cessna Owner photographer Jack Fleetwood and I were both looking for 182s,” Brad said. “I found this one in Pear­land, Texas, and was surprised when Jack also found one there. It turned out two brothers owned these planes. When my plane’s engine started making metal, they decided to pull the engine off of the plane Jack was looking at and put it on mine. They sent the engine from my plane in to be over­hauled and when it came back, it was installed on the plane Jack was buying. So we each bought a 182 from Pearland, from brothers, and brought them back to Taylor. I have Jack’s original engine and he has mine! Aviation is a small world.

Also of interest, our small airport has all versions of the straight-tail 182: a 1956, a 1957, two 1958s, and a 1959!”

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